When you care enough to create a card

Way to go, Hallmark! Once again, the company is embracing inclusion. Hallmark has a new card specifically for those undergoing gender transition.

It features a butterflyScreen Shot 2017-05-25 at 8.48.44 AM on the front with the words, “You’re becoming who you’ve always been.” Inside, it says, “How wonderful is that?”

How wonderful is that? I think it’s terrific! Hats off to Hallmark for embracing the LGBTQ+ community. This is the second time I’ve blogged about them – the first time I wrote about how the company featured a real-life gay couple in their Valentine’s commercial.

I think this deserves a new catch-phrase. Instead of ,”There’s an app for that,” I propose we change it to, “There’s a Hallmark card for that.”

I admit I don’t buy as many cards as I used to, but I just might need to visit my local Hallmark store and show them some love. They’re definitely showing love to the LGBT world.

Wouldn’t it be nice if more companies did?

From high school student to trans icon

Gavin Grimm is in the news again. The Virginia student was recently named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People. Just 15 years old when he transitioned, his case attacted national attention when some parents complained to the school board because he was born a girl but was using the boy’s restroom. I blogged about the outcome of his intial case here. The case went all the way to the country’s highest court before the Supremes sent it back down to the lower courts to reconsider.

Gavin is now only 17 but his name is known throughout the world, in part thanks to Laverne Cox. The transgender actress used her acceptance speech at the Grammy awards to shine a light on Gavin and his case. And now that Time has recognized him as the face of justice for the transgender comunity, he stands as a reminder to us all. Time had this to say about including him on their list:

His case…has implications that extend far beyond bathrooms. It’s about a greater sense of belonging for us all

Way to go, Gavin. You didn’t set out to change the world but your courage and your bravery are paving the way for others to live a more authentic life. That’s a hell of an accomplishment for someone who’s only been able to legally drive for a year.

Who’s got their back?

I attended a gathering last night that really spoke to my heart. Could be because I’m a mom (or maybe because I’m human) but the folks at Side by Side Virginia made a big impact on me.

Side by Side Virginia is an LGBTQ+ support group for youth that includes counseling services and support, but is also just a place where kids can come and be themselves with no fear of judgement or recrimination. I don’t have the quote in front of me, but they shared a comment from one of their members that said something along the lines of, “Side by Side is where I can come to be restored, and to just be myself.”

Wow.  Imagine feeling like you had to hide who you are nearly all the time. How draining that would be!  Now imagine feeling like that as a KID.

Side by Side started a trans support group in 2011, and now trans youth make up more than half of their members. The group has had a middle school program for trans youth aged 11-14 in Richmond since 2013, and hopes to start one in  Charlottesville this summer. I find that wonderful! The more support we can offer to children facing the challenges of transitioning, the better. And I have to believe that the younger that support starts, the easier (hopefully) the transition will be.

This program is headquartered in Richmond and has a Charlottesville branch, and I believe is connected to a couple of other locations within the Commonwealth. They not only support the youth, but they help train organizations on how to best assist these kids and how to help others support them. The Boy Scouts of America called them after last week’s announcement, and wanted their opinion on how they could help LGBT scouts!

Thanks for opening my eyes to a great way to assist the LGBT community, Side by Side — and thanks for all you’re doing on their behalf!  You have a fan in me.

If you know of any young LGBTQ+ folks who need a hand, their Youth Support Line is 888-644-4390. 

#writeourforewordellen

Time to find a publisher!

I’ve been working on a book for the past year and it’s time to share it with the world!

It’s tough to find an agent in the publishing world, so I’m crowd funding this instead.

The gist of the story is this: real-life couple Jennifer and Marc weren’t always Jennifer and Marc. They were Jennifer and Marika. They were happily married for six months when Marika announced she wanted to transition.

Jennifer was completely blindsided, and unsure whether she could stay married.

This book details her struggles to accept the situation, to understand her spouse’s decision, and to come to terms with her own reaction.

It’s a deeply intimate look at her journey and I truly believe others will benefit from reading it.

If you’re a member of the LGBT community or have a friend or loved one who is, please consider preordering a copy! Or two, and give one as a gift!

Please visit this link and consider pre-ordering my book. Each order gets me closer to landing a publisher.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Do People React a Certain Way Because We Expect Them To?

I love this story I just read about a woman who was afraid to tell her grandmother she was bisexual. But she bit the bullet and told her anyway.

Her grandmother didn’t scoff, scorn or scold. She didn’t disown her, throw a fit, or judge.

No, this grandmother sat down and knitted her bisexual granddaughter a sweater with a great big rainbow on it.

Cool. Very cool. And it made me wonder – how many other people feared coming out without needing to?

Okay, I’m not naive. I know there are plenty of haters out there. Parents who turned their backs on their kids because they couldn’t understand. I just wonder whether we sometimes make situations harder on ourselves than necessary because we expect the worst reaction.

Or maybe it’s self preservation? We expect someone to be really upset, and when they are, we can handle it because we were prepared. And if by some chance they’re okay with the shocking news, it’s a great surprise.

But this doesn’t just apply to the LGBT community. The same is true for anybody who’s got to share news we think people aren’t gonna like. Job changes. Unexpected pregnancies. Failed college classes.

In each case, there’s the potential for someone to be really thrown for a loop. But there’s also the chance they’ll be fine about it. Disappointed that we’re hurt, sure … but not un-frickin-believably mad. Maybe people aren’t as harsh as we think they are. Maybe we help set the stage for how they react before they’ve even heard the news.

It’s an interesting psych-type question, I think. For those of you who’ve had to come out and who care to share, I’d love to know how you handled it and how it was received!

First, do no harm – unless you think it’s okay to discriminate

We hear a lot these days about the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare.” There’s one particular section of the legislation that I want to write about here … the section that deals with LGBTQ folks.

Let me say this upfront: I don’t know how this will be affected when the incoming administration nixes the AHA as it is already in the process of doing. With that question momentarily out of the way, here’s what I’ve learned about 1557 and what a win it is for the LGBTQ community.

Section 1557 says all LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in health insurance coverage and health care. That in and of itself is wonderful, in my opinion. (Of course, I think they should be protected from discrimination in any form!) So, by law, doctors must treat someone who’s LGBTQ the same way they’d treat someone who isn’t. While that should be a no-brainer, unfortunately, it’s not. Many in the LGBT world avoid going to do the doctor for fear of discrimination or hostility based on their lifestyles. How sad is that?!

Another cool part of the law? Trans patients must be allowed to be housed in a room according to the gender they identify with, not the gender of their birth.

I’m all for that.

Think about nursing homes.  Until section 1557, someone who’s trans would’ve been forced to share a room based on the gender of their birth certificate. So a woman who transitioned to become a woman 20 years ago had to share a room with a man because her birth certificate said she was born male. Doesn’t matter that she’s identified as female for two decades — she was born with a penis and therefore housed with a man. Period.

Section 1557 changes that. She’s now free to room with another female.

However, it could create an interesting scenario… say you’ve got a trans man sharing the same nursing home room as a CIS man. If the CIS guy has a tough time comprehending the idea of a transgender man, it could be an explosive situation. Talk about forced integration!

But it could also potentially help the CIS patient to better understand how he and his roommate are similar, and better understand their differences. (I am guessing that the trans guy probably already has a decent sense of that.) I know I might sound like Pollyana, always hoping for the best in every situation, but I love the idea that perhaps this ruling could do more than protect LGBTQ rights. Maybe, just maybe, it could help some of teh more close-minded people grasp where someone else is coming from — and that the LGBTQ community poses no threat.

Imagine how much we could learn about each other if we were forced to treat a patient or share a room with someone we didn’t understand.

If you wanna learn more, here’s a fact sheet and an article for your reading pleasure.

I’ll post an update if I learn whether Section 1557 will go the way of the dodo bird when the rest of the ACA is repealed. Fingers crossed it will remain untouched.

Breaking the Gender Barrier

In my ongoing quest to learn about the LGBT community, this was a new one for me. (Duh, Lynn, that’s why it’s called “learning.”)

I read an article in Time magazine about a trangender who was born female, who’d always wanted to a) transition to male and b) still have a baby.

So he did.

Wowza! Talk about breaking a gender barrier, and not gently, mind you, but SHATTERING it.

Let me be perfectly clear here. I LOVE that he transitioned because that felt natural. I LOVE that he still wanted to have a baby. I LOVE that he did, in fact, have said baby. I’m not against this in any way.

I’m just a little … mind blown, I guess.

This could be our new norm. As we work (for some it’s more work than others, I guess) to accept gender fluidity, we come to terms with some of the more basic principles and they become a little easier every day. Someone wants to transition, so they do. We (hopefully) acknowledge it and adjust pronouns accordingly, and welcome (hopefully) them into our lives with their new gender.

That seems pretty simple to me. You see someone who’s trans and you think, “Hmm. I bet they’re trans.” Or better yet, you don’t even notice or think twice about it.

But when you take it a step further – “Oh look, that man looks like he’s due any day” – then the sheer unconventionality of that takes a moment to get used to.

I’m not sure how long it will take before that becomes as unsurprising as say, the mail truck or the long lines at Disney. I suspect it’ll be awhile before it’s commonplace.

But this guy’s taking baby steps (!) toward making it happen and I applaud him. It takes guts. And conviction. And a whole lotta Pampers.

Congratulations, Evan, on your bundle of joy. Wishing you a baby who’s a good sleeper!

 

What’s Behind Curtain #2?

I’ve had a few folks ask recently about why I’ve started this blog. In case you’re interested, here’s the scoop:  I’m working on a new book. (Yes, I published one before. It’s here, if you’re curious.) 

It’s too early to get into details about my new work but it  deals with – surprise! – LGBT issues.

So this blog is helping me to learn more about the LGBT community. So that’s it – no big announcements from me or anyone in my family. It’s just research!

I’ve learned so much in this process. While I’ve always accepted lesbians and gays, I didn’t truly appreciate all they go through. I’m sure I still don’t (can anyone who doesn’t walk in their shoes?), but I’m closer to understanding. I celebrate their ability to legally marry and I hate the ongoing discrimination they face in so many other instances.

And I had almost no knowledge of the trans world so this has been eye opening, for sure. I’ve met some terrific people through this journey who’ve been willing to share some pretty personal experiences with me in hopes of helping me get a better sense of their world. I’m saddened by what they go through on a daily basis just to try to be themselves, and am so humbled that they’d tell me – a total stranger – about their struggles in an effort to help me understand.

So there you have it: my big secret. It’s a book!

I’ll continue to share my experiences here and I welcome your input, ideas, and inspiration for blog topics that relate to the LGBT world.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for coming along as I learn!

 

 

Learning the ABCs of LGBTQs

This whole blog is about my learning experiences in the LGBT world. I found this article that is helping me better understand all of those who identify as anything other than straight.

Because the LGBT world encompasses more than lesbian, gay, bisexuals and transgenders. It also includes agenders, bigenders, and those who are gender fluid.

Then there’s graysexual, non-binary, and third gender.

It seems confusing. But when I stop think about it, it doesn’t have to be. Because I’m not supposed to know all of this – just like I don’t know everything about geology, microbiology or art history. No one knows it all. That’s how I stumbled across this article — because I wanted to learn more. It’s also why I’m sharing it here.

I definitely don’t know everything about the LGBT world but the key is, I’m learning. And I’m trying to learn. And yes, I make mistakes. I may use the wrong term, or use it incorrectly. But it’s not done with ill intent. It’s just what happens when we learn.

And maybe, just maybe, if enough of us try to learn – we’ll succeed. And we’ll be that much closer to a world of inclusion.

 

They’re Not Just Numbers

Homelessness bothers me. A lot. My heart breaks a little inside every time I pass someone holding one of those small, handwritten cardboard signs. I wish I could help every one of them by offering them a safe, warm space to live. My family and I have started a tradition of putting together supply bags that we hand out, giving them toiletries, water, and a gift card for food. But I haven’t ever given them a home.

Who’s behind that sign? The faces are usually weathered. Tired. Defeated. Sometimes the face is younger; fewer wrinkles maybe, but the eyes still carry that same beaten-down hopelessness. And when it’s a young person, somehow it hurts a bit more… it’s hard enough to be a youth in today’s harsh world, but these kids — no more than children, really — don’t even have their own bed to sleep in, something I take for granted each night.

When you see a homeless young person, there’s a very good chance they’re LGBT. While these kids only make up 7% of the general population, LGBT youth represent 40% of all young people who are homeless. FORTY PERCENT. Nearly half of those kids out there without a home are LGBT.

That’s just staggering to me. According to a few articles I’ve read, LGBT youth are often homeless for different reasons than non-LGBT kids. Often, it’s because their family has rejected them.

And the harsh reality is that the world in general has too – and will probably continue to for their lifetime.

I’m grateful we’re making strides toward inclusion. They’re small steps, in reality, but there’s a tiny spot of awareness in this world that these people exist, and they matter. Forget for a moment about job discrimination, lack of services, and hate crimes. Think instead about the legalization of same-sex marriage, and the recent White House decision that says school students can use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.

Baby steps, for sure. But they’re steps that are at least moving in the right direction. And for these homeless LGBT youth — out there with no direction at all — at least baby steps are better than nothing.